Monday, December 8, 2014

Why Do Apples Rot Inside Before They Drop?

Few things are more upsetting than seeing your homegrown apples (Malus domestica) fall from the tree without knowing why they are dropping. The quickest way to discover the cause of the sudden drop is to cut open a fallen apple to see if there is any sign of rot or mold in the core. Moldy core is a  fungal disease that affects an apple tree’s fruit, rotting the apples on the inside. Apples  grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8 and many apple cultivars or varieties are susceptible to moldy core.


Several different fungal pathogens can cause moldy core in apples, including fungi from the Alternaria, Stemphylium  and Cladosporium genera. These fungal pathogens become a problem when the apple trees are blooming during wet weather or when there is dry weather in the early summer that is followed by a rainy late summer. Lush tree growth can also help harbor the detrimental fungus.


While infection can occur at any time, even after the apples are picked and placed in cold storage, it is most common for the fungus to infect the apple’s core or seed cavity by first colonizing the blossoms after they have just opened. The fungus enters into the developing fruit through the calyx or bottom opening. The moldy fungus usually stays contained within the apple's core, but if the moldy core fungus penetrates into the apple’s flesh, dry core rot will infect the entire apple, causing it to rot.


It is nearly impossible to detect moldy core just by looking at the tree and its fruit. The disease is not spotted on the outside of the fruit, on its skin, and it is not detected until the fruit is cut open. Sometimes the apples infected with moldy core will ripen prematurely and drop from the tree, but to find the cause of the problem, the fruit must be inspected for symptoms of moldy core.


There is very little you can do to save the fruit after moldy core has been detected. Attempts have been made to fight off the fungus with fungicides during the tree’s blooming cycle, but the results have been erratic and the practice is not recommended. The best method for combatting moldy core is to prevent or decrease further fungal problems. Pruning and tree training are recommended to improve the tree’s air circulation and sunlight.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Animals That Eat Blueberries

There is nothing more disappointing than discovering that something, other than yourself, has eaten your blueberries. There are numerous animals that will eat the blueberries you’ve planted. Here are a few of the common ones.


Birds love blueberries and will eat an entire crop if you don’t take measures against them. Netting is the most common way to protect your blueberry bushes from birds. A light frame is set up over the tops of the bushes and the netting is draped over the frame and down to the ground, protecting the entire bush from birds trying to get into or under the netting. The netting is only removed when it is time to harvest the berries.


While rabbits will occasionally eat the blueberry fruit, they cause most damage to the bushes young branches. During the winter months, rabbits will eat low growing blueberry branches when other food is hard to find. To prevent rabbits from eating your blueberry bushes, surround the bushes with fine chicken wire fence. Keep the fencing clear of snow to prevent rabbit from getting over the fencing when the snow gets high.


Skunks are nocturnal animals that eat many types of food, including berries. Skunks cannot climb fences, so putting up a chicken wire fence around your blueberry bushes will prevent them from getting to the ripe berries. Skunks can burrow, so bury a portion of the fence underground to prevent them from digging under the fence. Killing a healthy skunk is not recommended because skunks are known for eating other pests, such as wasps and bees, grasshoppers, potato bugs, and even snakes.


Chipmunks will gladly steal some blueberries from your bushes, if you let them. While electric fencing may help keep these small rodents away from your berry bushes, a simpler route is to put up a hardware cloth fence. The hardware cloth fence should be one foot above the ground with one foot buried below the ground to prevent chipmunks from burrowing under it. Repellant sprays are not safe for human consumption and should not be used on the blueberry bushes.


Bears will eat blueberries and many other kinds of berries while they are in season. As an important source of food, black bears can eat up to 30,000 berries in a single day. To keep bears away from your blueberry bushes, install an electrical fence around around your orchard and gardening area. Picking the blueberries as soon as they are ripe will also help keep away bears looking to eat ripe fruit.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Spanish Cream Recipe Topped with Sliced Peaches

Here is a delicious chilled dessert you can make for your family. The spanish cream can be topped with many different fruits, including berries, but I prefer to top it with either fresh or canned peach slices.

Makes 4 servings.

  • 1 Tbsp plain gelatin
  • 2 cups milk, divided
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Soften the gelatin in a small dish containing 1/4 cup milk. Put the remaining milk, 1-3/4 cups, into a saucepan and scald over medium-high heat. Turn off the burner and add the gelatin mix, sugar, and salt. Stir until dissolved. Beat egg yolks lightly. Add a spoonful of the hot mixture and mix together. Pour yolk mixture into the saucepan and turn burner on at low. Stir mixture over low heat until it becomes a custard thick enough to coat a spoon. Turn off burner and remove the pan from the heat. Stir in vanilla. Let mixture cool and set. Beat mixture until fluffy. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into mixture. Fill individual serving cups and chill in the refrigerator until firm. Serve topped with peaches and berries.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Russian Cream Topped with Fresh Strawberries

I love my desserts and so do the kids, so I make it a point to try out different desserts with them whenever possible. This recipe for Russian cream is a chilled dessert that is set into a fancy mold or into individual molds. I chill mine in individual pudding dishes and that works great.

Serves eight.


2 cups sweet cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cold water
1 Tbsp plain gelatin
2 cups sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a saucepan, mix sweet cream and sugar. Heat cream and sugar to scalding taking care not to boil. Turn off burner. Mix cold water and gelatin. Add to sweet cream mixture and stir until dissolved. After the mixture has cooled to lukewarm, stir in sour cream and vanilla. Pour into a fancy mold or into individual molds or serving dishes. Chill until firm. Serve topped with fresh, sliced strawberries.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Controlling Weeds With Vinegar

Many people are turning to vinegar as an environmentally safe way to get rid of annual weeds. Research done by the USDA has proven that vinegar (acetic acid) can be used as an herbicide. Effective at killing some common weeds, vinegar quickly breaks down in the soil and doesn’t affect the pH for longer than a few days.

Affects of Vinegar on Plants

Vinegar applications work best at killing annuals by causing a rapid burn to some weed’s plant tissue. Perennials will have green die-off, but the roots may survive the application and send up new plants.

Killing Weeds with Vinegar

Household vinegar is a 5 percent concentration of vinegar mixed with 95 percent water and can be used on young seedlings. Solutions made with a 5 to 10 percent vinegar concentration are sprayed on the leaves of young plants under 2 weeks of age. For older plants, the solution should contain a 10 to 20 percent vinegar concentration. These higher vinegar concentrations are being sold as herbicides at many lawn and garden stores, but should be used with great care. Any vinegar concentrations above 5 percent can cause eye injuries and skin burns.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sand Use in a Vegetable Garden

The best gardening soil is comprised of three different sized mineral particles: sand, silt, and clay. Coarse sand is used to make fertile garden soil and promotes the proper drainage necessary for growing healthy vegetables.

Coarse Sand

Coarse sand, also called builders sand, is the best type of sand to add to the soil in your vegetable garden. The sand should have sharp, not rounded, edges and be 0.5 to 1.0 millimeters in diameter. When mixed in with your soil, it will provide plants with proper drainage and it helps to prevent crown rot.

Fine Sand

Bought in bags for children’s sandboxes, fine sand is not used in vegetable gardening. It does not increase soil drainage and provides no other benefits to the garden.

Salts in Sand

Beach sand may contain high levels of salt. When mixed into the soil, the salts in the sand will alter the pH balance of garden soil and can prevent plants sensitive to salts from growing or producing. Although beach sand can be washed to remove fine dust and salt, it is still not a good sand to use in gardening because it is too fine.

Adding Sand to Soil

When you have clay soil, water will often settle on top of the soil after a rain. Clay soil retains water and doesn’t provide plants with enough drainage and aeration to grow healthily. While it was formerly believed that adding coarse sand to the soil improved water drainage, soil experts now advise that adding sand does not improve the soil's quality. It is now recommended that organic matter is added to soils to improve the soil's quality. The addition of earthworms and other beneficial microorganisms will help improve the soil's texture.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Save a Dying Agave Plant

The most likely causes of a dying agave plant (Agave spp.) for homeowners are its growing conditions. Agave is often grown indoors where its growing conditions can be controlled, but it is also grown in outdoor gardens in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 9. Agave plants that lack the sunlight they need, proper soil drainage, and are suffering from overwatering can easily become infested with fungus and pests.

Growing Conditions

Agave needs full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. Watering should be minimal. Because they are desert plants, agaves planted outdoors and in the ground rarely need water, except in extreme drought conditions. When the outdoor temperatures rise above 100 F, provide agaves with 1 gallon of water per hour for 2 to 4 hours through drip irrigation once a week. Indoor and outdoor potted agave plants should be watered only when the top inch of soil is dry. Provide enough water to the soil to make the soil moist. Plants also require fast draining soil because if it does not drain quickly it can cause the agave to rot and die. Potted agave needs to be planted in cactus soil available at most nursery stores. For agaves planted in the ground, add up to 25 percent pumice to the surrounding soil to create proper drainage. Avoid adding fresh or un-composted manure to the soil because its high salt content will damage the agave’s root development.


Anthracnose is a disease that affects agave plants. It’s caused by a fungus that occurs when an agave is overwatered and grown in damp conditions with not enough sunlight. The fungus is identified by the lesions it causes on the leaves and the orange to red spores found within these lesions. To save an infected agave plant, remove all leaves showing lesions and spores. Properly dispose of the leave and avoid overhead watering. Water the soil only when needed.

Soft Scale

A common pest of the agave plant is called soft scale (Coccid species). These small scale insects attack stressed plants by attaching themselves to the leaves and sucking out the plant’s juices. To get rid of them, separate the infected agave from other plants and begin nurturing the plant back to health with proper watering, sunlight and soil drainage. If the infection is severe, treat the infect plant with imidacloprid found in 2-in-1 Plant Spikes by Bayer Advanced Garden. A spike is pushed into the soil and as the imidacloprid is released into the soil, the agave takes in the pest control and kills the scale bugs that are feeding on the leaves.

Death After Flowering

It is natural for most varieties of agave to die after flowering. Some of the agave varieties will produce offspring from the base of the plant to replace itself after expiring. The Octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana) produces offspring on its flower stalk which are removed and replanted. It takes the agave about 10 years before it produces a flower and many times, agaves that are grown as indoor houseplants will not flower.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

What is Sedge Grass?

Sedge (Cyperaceae) is commonly confused with grass (Gramineae), although they both belong to different families. Lumped in with ornamental grasses, sedge has grass-like appearances and is often used in natural landscaping. There are many distinct differences between sedge and grass that identifying sedge is easy when you know what to look for.

Identifying Sedge

Learning to identify sedge from grass is fairly easy. Inspecting the stem will tell you whether the plant is a sedge or a grass. Unlike grass stems that are hollow inside, sedge stems are triangular and solid inside. Also, sedge has no nodes or joints along its stem like grass does. While different types of grasses can be annuals or perennials, sedges are mostly perennials and will live for two or more years.


Like grass, sedge can be grown to control erosion and it is planted at sites where the ground has been disturbed from mining. It is also used in meadow restoration projects. Many home gardeners grow sedge as an ornamental grass for both its beauty and to provide wildlife with food.

Growing Conditions

Sedges are fairly versatile and adaptable, which is what makes a favorite plant for gardeners. Planted in the spring so that it can become established before the winter months, most sedge prefers to grow in moist or wet soil. Unlike grass, sedge does not need full sun to grow healthily.

Sedges in Gardens

Sedge needs very little care and maintenance. It can be grown in poor soils where other plants are unable to grow. Gardeners plant sedge to provide accents and to create grass barriers along walls or pathways. In the fall, sedge dries up like other ornamental grasses and can add character to the landscape. The sedge is usually cut down after it has dried to prevent a fire hazard, although some gardeners harvest the dried sedge to use for indoor decorating the same way as some people decorate with dried grasses.

Friday, November 28, 2014

How to Clear Thorn Bushes

Clearing out thorn bushes is a tedious task that requires up to two years of work. Tilling is a common method that works best at removing thorn bushes more efficiently than burning. Mowing is also a great method to get rid of thorn bushes, but you will need to keep the are mowed on a monthly basis for two years. Pulling the thorn bushes out of the ground is another way to get rid of thorn bushes, but you will need to wear a good layer of protective clothing to prevent getting scratched by the thorns.


Tilling the ground is one of the best methods for combating thorn bushes. The first step is to cut down the tops of the bushes, cutting them down as close to the ground as you can safely get them. A Rototiller can be used to clean a small area. If the thorn bushes have taken over a larger area, contact local farmers and ask them how much they charge to till your land. The ground should be tilled several times in a growing season, from May to October, to remove the bushes and to prevent regrowth.


Mowing is less effective than tilling, but it can eventually clear up a thorn bush problem. After the thorn bushes have been cut down to the ground, the area should be mowed each month from May to October. Keeping the thorn bushes mowed down allows other ground cover to take hold, such as grass. (Ref 2) After 2 consecutive years of mowing, the thorn bushes should die off.


Burning large thorn bushes is a fire hazard and it releases greenhouse gases into the air. It may also require a permit in some areas so ask your local fire department first before burning any brush. While burning a thorn bush gets rid of the over brush, it is not a long term strategy for removing thorn bushes. The roots will survive the burning and shoot up new plants. To prevent the bush from returning, the area should be tilled or mowed each month, from May to October, for two years.

Pulling and Covering

Another method for removing thorn bushes is to pull and cover. Wearing heavy gloves and clothing, cut the canes or branches of the bush back so that you can get to the base of the bush. Dig or pull up the bushes. The best way to pull up a thorn bush is to use a weed wench so that your hands are safe from getting punctured by the thorns. To prevent regrowth, cover the area with cardboard or a layer of newspaper (six to nine sheets thick) and top it with several inches of mulch or sawdust. Keep the area covered for two years to prevent the thorn bush from growing back.


Goats are often used on homesteads to clear away large areas of plants, including thorn bushes. One of the major benefits to using goats is that they eat poison oak. While using goats is environmentally friendly, they do need to be cared for and should only be considered if you have a large plot of land. For clearing land, three to five goats are recommended per acre.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Do Nectarines Turn Brown?

Nectarines (Prunus persica) turn brown because of rot. There are many different ways rot, called brown rot, can set into nectarines. The fruit, grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 - 8, can develop brown rot while growing on trees. Frost, storage and handling is also a major factor in whether or not nectarines will turn brown.

Brown Rot

Brown rot is caused by a fungus disease that can affect stone fruits while they are still growing on the trees. On the Pacific coast, the fungus is called Monilinia laxa, a European form of brown rot. The infected nectarines form brown spots that rapidly expand over the entire fruit, causing the nectarines to rot on the branches 1 to 3 weeks before they are ready to harvest.

Frost and Freezing

The whole fruit, whether it is on the tree or picked, is negatively affected by frost and freezing. Freezing occurs at temperatures below 32 F and causes the fruit’s skin and fibers to break down. After thawing, the overly soft to mushy nectarine will turn brown from rot.


Nectarines are highly perishable and will only last a few days to up to two weeks after they are picked. To prevent immediate rotting, store the fruit in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator at temperatures of 32 F to 40 F. Immediately use fruit that is bruised or punctured because it will begin to rot while in storage.


Rough and careless handling can cause nectarines to bruise. Bruise spots on nectarines are highly susceptible to brown rot because the fruit’s skin is damaged and the fungus can more easily attack the fruit. Bruised fruit should be eaten immediately. If the fruit is far too bruised to eat, dispose of it immediately so that it does not infect any other nectarines.

Browning After Cutting

Many fruits including nectarines, begin to turn brown after being cut open. To prevent browning, eat the fruit immediately after cutting. If you are preparing nectarines for canning or freezing, drop the peeled, sliced fruit into a bowl containing 1 gallon water mixed with either one teaspoon ascorbic acid crystals or six crushed 500 milligram vitamin C tablets.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How to Harvest Cranberries

Native to North America, cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.) are produced on low growing vines that are found growing in USDA Hardiness Zones 2-6. Commercial production of cranberries did not being until the 1820s when Henry Hall, a Revolutionary War veteran, began growing the berries in a pasture and shipping the berries for consumption along the northeast coast of the United States. These early berries were hand picked until the invention of water harvesting in the 1940s.

When to Harvest

Cranberries are ready to be picked when the berries are dark red and, when the berries are opened, the seeds inside them are brown. The berries will be slightly soft to the touch. Cranberries must be harvested before the first frost because they do not tolerate temperatures below 30 F. 

Hand Picked

Handpicking cranberries is also called dry harvesting. The cranberries are hand picked off of the plants and placed into containers. This method is mostly used by growers who sell whole berries at farmer’s markets and grocery stores. It is also the most economical method for small, home growers who want the choicest berries for personal use.

Water Harvesting

Water harvesting, also called wet harvesting, is a popular method of harvesting cranberries used by major producers. The cranberry beds are flooded and, by agitating the water, the berries loosen from the plants and float to the top of the water. Wet harvested cranberries are often bruised and contain rot spores. They are not sold whole to the public. Instead, these berries are used for making cranberry products, such as juices and jelly.

Protecting Plants After Harvest

After the berries have been harvested, it is time to prepare your plants for winter. Cranberry plants are evergreens. They need moisture during the cold, winter months. To prevent the ground from freezing and drying up the leaves, cover cranberry plants with mulch made from either pine needles or tree leaves. In April, uncover the plants during the days and cover them back up at night until the threat of spring frost is no longer a problem. With proper care, cranberry plants can live up to 100 years or longer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fast Growing Vegetables

Growing your own food quickly and inexpensively can be done with many of the same vegetables you see in the grocery store. Radishes, for instance, take as little as three weeks to grow and can be planted in a single row in small gardens. Zucchinis are another fast crop that begin producing in as little as 35 days. Many vegetables will continue to produce after the plants have reached maturity, such as bush beans and leaf lettuce. With just a few rows of plants, you can produce a summer’s worth of healthy foods for you and your family.

Root Vegetables

Radishes (Raphanus sativus) are harvested three to five weeks after planting and are one of the fastest growing root vegetables for home gardeners. Baby spike, a type of baby carrot (Daucus carota), matures in only 52 days. Turnips (Brassica rapa) can be harvested at 60 days. The turnip greens can also be harvested along with the root. Beets (Beta vulgaris) mature in 55 to 70 days, but beets can be harvest at 40 days maturity. These “baby” beets are tender and sweet, and are prepared the same way as fully mature beets.

Leaf Vegetables

The wonderful thing about leaf vegetables is that after the plants have reached maturity, you can continuously harvest the leaves until the end of the growing season. Leaf lettuce (Lactuca sativa) takes only 40 days to reach maturity. Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) takes 45 days to reach maturity. Kale (Brassica oleracea acephala) takes up to 60 days to reach maturity.

Beans and Peas

Bean and pea plants continue to flower and produce more pods after each harvest, making them a great addition to the garden for a continuous supply of fresh food. Bush beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), also called snap beans or string beans, are grown in USDA zones 3-10. The beans take 57 days to reach maturity. Daybreak, an early spring pea (Pisum sativum), can be harvest as little as 54 days after planting.

Cucumbers and Zucchinis

Cucumber and zucchini plants produce a bountiful harvest that will need to be picked every few days after the plant has reached maturity. Cucumbers (Cucumis Sativus) take 50 to 70 days to reach maturity. Zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) reaches maturity much sooner than cucumbers. Being a summer squash with a fast growth rate, zucchini reaches maturity in 35 to 55 days.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Treatments for Leaves on Rose Garden Plants

Different diseases can attack the leaves of rose plants, but most of these diseases, such as powdery mildew and rust, can be prevented with proper watering and pruning. Rose plants require one inch of water every week and should be watered at the base of the plant. Spraying water over the entire plant encourages disease problems. Deadheading, the removal of dead rose blooms, also helps prevent leaf diseases. Diseases and larvae can hide within the dead blooms and infect the rest of the plant.


Aphids, red spider mites, spittle bugs, and rose slugs are a few of the pest that can infect a rose plant. Most of these pests, such as spittle bugs, can be removed simply by hosing down the leaves and knocking off the insects. Aphids can be removed by spraying the rose plants with hose water and misting the leaves with an insecticidal soap or horticultural oil made specifically for roses. Rose slugs are the larvae of the sawfly that eat holes in the leaves of the rose plant. To get rid of rose slugs, spray the tops and undersides of the leaves with an insecticidal soap for roses containing Pyrethrins.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew covers the leaves of the rose plant with a white powder. It rarely kills rose plants, but it will affect the leaves and blooms. To treat, mix two tablespoons horticulture oil into one gallon of water and spray the entire plant. To prevent the mildew from returning, spray the leaves every ten days during the growing season.

Black Spots

Black spots on rose plant leaves are a fungal disease caused by either black spot or Cercospora leafspot. The fungal disease is brought on by warm, wet weather and can cause the rose plant to die. Begin treatment by removing any leaves that show black spots. Thin out remaining leaves to allow the plant more light and air circulation. Remove all the debris from under the plant and add a one inch layer of mulch around the base of the plant to protect it from fungal spores in the dirt. In severe cases, all the leaves may need to be removed. To encourage new growth, give the rose plant a weekly feeding of fish emulsion fertilizer made for house and garden plants.


Rust is an orange-red fungus that grows on rose leaves. Sanitation is the key to getting rid of this fungus. To treat, remove and dispose of any leaves that show signs of rust. Remove all leaves that are within 18 inches of the ground to prevent further infection. Increase air circulation and sunlight by thinning out the leaves on the plant. Keep the plant free from all ground debris. Add an inch of fresh mulch around the plant and replace it every three months to prevent reinfection.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fruits that Don’t Ripen After Being Picked

It is common for commercial growers to pick fruit before it is fully ripe and treat it with chemicals for preservation until it reaches its destination. In some cases, this can mean your fruit has traveled over 1,500 miles to reach you. Locally grown fruit is less likely to be picked before maturity because of the shorter distance the fruit needs to travel to reach local customers. Of course, home growers have the luxury of picking fruit when it is at its peak maturity and sweetness.


Apple trees (Malus domestica), grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture Zones 4 - 9, need to be fully mature when picked. Apples picked before reaching maturity will not continue to ripen. To determine the maturity of an apple, examine the color of the skin. Immature green apples start off bright green and turn a lighter green when mature. For red apples, examine the color of the skin on the stem. As the apple matures, the stem color will change from bright green to light green and then to yellow. You can also cut open an apple to determine the maturity of the fruit. As the apple matures, the seeds’ coats turn dark brown. Tasting the apple is the easiest way to determine the maturity of the apple. Immature apples will taste slightly starchy while mature apples will be sweet.


Citrus fruits, USDA zones 9 - 11, do not ripen after they are picked. Oranges (Citrus x aurantium), tangerines (Citrus reticulata), lemons (Citrus x limon), limes (Citrus x aurantiifolia), and grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi) are picked when they are ripe and ready to eat. The easiest way to determine ripeness is to taste test the fruit. Unlike temperate zone fruits, citrus fruits can be left on the tree one to two months after they are ripe and the fruit will become sweeter.

Berries and Grapes

Raspberries (Rubus idaeus) and blackberries (Rubus fruticosis) are grown in USDA zones 5 - 7. When picked before turning ripe they are sour and will not reach full sweetness. Strawberries, blueberries, and grapes all grow within USDA zones 3 - 10. Strawberries (Fragaria F. x ananassa) will continue to turn red but they will not get sweeter after they are picked. For blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium and Vaccinium corymbosum) to reach maximum sweetness, pick them three to four days after they have turned blue. Blueberries that are still tinged with red will not continue to ripen after they are picked. Harvest grapes (Vitis labrusca and Vitis vinifera) only when they are ripe because their flavor will not improve after they are picked. The easiest way to test for ripeness is to taste a grape for sweetness.

Cherries and Apricots

Cherries (Prunus P. cerasus and Prunus P. avium), grown in USDA zones 4 - 9, are harvested as soon as they become ripe. They are ready to be picked when the cherries are slightly soft. Tasting them is a quick indicator as to the ripeness of the fruit. Apricots (Prunus armeniaca), USDA zones 4 - 8, can only be picked when they are ripe. If they are picked before becoming soft and ripe, the fruit will shrivel up and be inedible.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How to Can Tomatoes

Canning whole tomatoes gives home cooks a wide variety of ways to use them. Whole canned tomatoes can later be cooked down into tomato sauce that is either chunky or smooth. The tomatoes can also be chopped down and used in salsa dishes. Tomatoes are the most popular item canned in home kitchens in the United States, and the reason is because tomatoes are easy to can and are so versatile in the kitchen.

Choosing and Preparing Tomatoes

Choose tomatoes that are free of disease and signs of rot. For best flavor, use only tomatoes that are ripened on the vine and process them within the first two to three hours after picking or purchasing. You need roughly 13 pounds of tomatoes to fill 9 pints and 21 pounds of tomatoes to fill 7 quarts. Begin by washing the tomatoes. Dip them in a pot of boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds, or until their skins split. Carefully remove from the boiling water and drop into a bowl of cold water. When cool enough to handle, slip off the skins and remove the cores with a paring knife.

Increasing Acidity

To safely can tomatoes, acidity needs to be increased to a pH of 4 to 4.6. When canning pint sized jars of whole tomatoes, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon citric acid, or 2 tablespoons of vinegar to each jar before adding the tomatoes. For quart sized jars, add 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon citric acid, or 4 tablespoons of vinegar to each jar before adding the tomatoes. Salt does not need to be added to canned tomatoes, but it can be used to improve the flavor of the tomatoes and to protect their color while canning.

Raw or Hot Packed

To raw pack tomatoes, fill clean jars with prepared tomatoes, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Fill the jars with hot, boiled water, leaving the 1/2-inch headspace. Cover with new, clean lids and bands. Hot packing whole tomatoes involves boiling the tomatoes in liquid before canning them. Place the prepared tomatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Boil the tomatoes for 5 minutes and fill clean jars with the tomatoes and the liquid. Cover with new, clean lids and bands.


Canned whole tomatoes can be processed in a boiling water canner or pressure canner. Because you have increased the acidity of the tomatoes, you can easily process them in boiling water. Fill the water canner halfway with water and fill the canning rack with the filled jars. Lower the canning rack into the water. Boiling water must cover 1 to 2 inches over the tops of the jars. Add more boiling water to the water canner as needed. Pints are processed in boiling water for 40 minutes at altitudes of 0 to 1,000 feet and for 45 minutes at altitudes of 1,001 to 3,000 feet. In a dial gauge pressure canner, raw packed tomatoes, in either pints or quarts, are processed for 10 minutes at 11 pounds in altitudes 0 to 2,000 feet. In weighted gauge pressure canners, process the raw packs at 10 pounds at altitudes of 0 to 1,000 feet and at 15 pounds for altitudes of 1,000 feet or higher. Hot packed tomatoes, in either pints of quarts, are processed in a dial gauged pressure canner for 15 minutes at 6 pounds in altitudes 0 to 2,000 feet. In weighted gauge pressure canners, process the hot packs at 5 pounds at altitudes of 0 to 1,000 feet and at 10 pounds for altitudes of 1,000 feet or higher. After the processing time is reached, allow the jars to rest undisturbed for 5 minutes before removing from a water bath and for up to an hour before removing from a pressure canner. Place the jars in a place where they will not be disturbed for 12 to 24 hours before placing them in storage.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How to Rehydrate Dried Fruit

Not only is dried fruit a great way to store the summer’s harvest, it is also a great addition to your cooking. Dried fruit is normally eaten in its dried state or added to breads, trail mixes, and cookies. The dried fruit can also be softened before adding it to breads and hot cereals. By cooking the dried fruits, you can also make purees and baby food that can be cooled and eaten immediately.

Soak in Liquid

There are three ways you can rehydrated dried fruit without cooking them. The easiest method is to spread dried fruit on a dish and sprinkle the fruit with water or fruit juice. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and let sit for about 15 to 20 minutes. You can also put the dried fruit in a bowl and cover it with boiling water. Let stand for five to ten minutes and strain off the liquid. The third method is to place dried fruit in a steamer and steam over boiling water for five minutes or until the fruit is soft. Dried fruit that has been rehydrated needs to be used immediately or else it will begin to go bad. The rehydrated fruit can be stored in a plastic container with lid for up to one day.

Cook Until Soft

Dried fruit that needs to be softened for recipes, made into puree or baby food are softened on the stove. Put the dried fruit in a saucepan and cover with fruit juice or water. Simmer the fruit until it is tender. If you are making a puree or baby food, simmer the fruit until it becomes so soft that it is falling apart and can be pureed in a blender. If you want to sweeten the fruit or add spices, add them after the fruit has softened. If you sweeten the fruit while it is still simmering to get soft, the fruit will become tough.

Monday, November 10, 2014

How to Grow Watermelon

Growing watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) in your home garden has many advantages over buying watermelon from a grocery store. The best benefit to growing your own watermelon is that you harvest the fruit when it is at its peek. Commercially grown watermelon is harvested before the fruit reaches its maximum sweetness because the unripe fruit will not suffer as much shipping damage as ripened fruit. Watermelon that is picked before it is fully ripe will not continue to ripen. When you grow your own watermelon, you can check the fruit before harvesting to make certain it is at maximum sweetness.

Direct Seed Planting

Watermelon seeds can be bought from gardening stores and from most online seed suppliers. Seeds are sown directly into the ground in small mounds after the last frost. Seeds will germinate in soil that is 60 F or higher. Seedless watermelons need a soil temperature of 70 F or higher to germinate. Plant 2 to 4 seeds in each mound at a depth of 1 inch, spaced at 8 feet apart on all sides. After the seeds have germinated, thin the seedlings so there are two plants per mound.


Watermelon is a long season, warm weather crop and it can take 70 to 90 days to reach maturity. In areas with a short growing season, starting transplants indoors before the last frost can add four to five weeks to the area’s growing season. Plant one to two seeds per peat pot, at a depth of one inch, up to five weeks before the last frost. The soil temperature should be kept at 60 to 70 F for the seeds to germinate. Use supplemental lights hung 6 to 12 inches above the plants to provide the plants with 14 hours of light. If the seedlings do not get enough light, they will become leggy. The soil will need to be kept moist while the seeds are germinating with the use of misting. Seedlings can be planted outside after the last frost and the soil temperature is between 65 and 70 F. Before transplanting the plants, harden them off by setting the plants outdoors during the days for three to four days and bringing the plants indoors.

Site, Soil, Fertilizer

Watermelon is grown in the full sun and needs eight to ten hours of sunlight each day. The soil needs to be well drained and slightly acid with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Fertilize soil with 10-10-10 or 13-13-13 base fertilizer at 3 pounds per 100 square feet before seeds are planted. The soil should also be tilled to a depth of 6 inches. After the seeds have sprouted or the transplants have been planted, mulch with dried grass clippings to prevent weeds and to hold the moisture in the soil.

Water Requirements

Watermelon needs a lot of water to grow because the fruit is made up almost entirely of water. Give the plants 1 to 2 inches of water a week. Drip irrigation works best for watermelons, but most home gardeners will water the plants from above. When watering the plants, avoid watering at night because this may cause foliage diseases. Water the plants in the early afternoon so that the sun can dry off the leaves before nightfall.


There are several different methods to test watermelons for maturity. The most surefire method is to cut a piece out of one of the watermelons in the garden. If it is dark pink inside, the fruit has reached maturity. Another method to examine the curly tendril at the stem. If it is dry, the watermelon is ready to be harvested. You can also check the color of the underside of the watermelon. If the underside is yellow, it is ready to harvest. Cut the fruit from the vine to prevent any damage to the fruit. The melons are washed and can be stored at temperatures of 52 to 60 F for 2 to 3 weeks.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Shelf Life of Pickled Bologna

Inspecting a jar of pickled bologna found in the grocery store is the first step in determining how long the bologna can be stored. The use by date should be printed on the label or lid of the jar. If you cannot find or read the use by date, you need to determine how long the product has been sitting on the shelf. If the jar appears clean, not dusty, and the label is not torn, ask a store manager to find when the product was shipped to the store and to determine what the use by date is for the product. The use by date on store bought pickled bologna is the date you should use when determining the shelf life of the item.

Shelf Life of Homemade Pickled Bologna

Canning your own pickled bologna is a great way to ensure the quality of your pickled meats. Label each jar of pickled bologna with the date it was canned. Store unopened pickled bologna in a dry pantry at room temperature (between 50 and 70 F) for up to one year. After opening the jar, keep the pickled bologna refrigerated between 33 F to 40 F for up to 2 weeks.  If you are uncertain how long a jar has been open, it is best to throw out the contents than to risk eating spoiled food.

Monday, September 1, 2014

How to Sell and Make Money With Your Crafts

You Can Make Money With Crafts

I often hear friends complain about making beautiful crafts, but not being able to sell their crafts. I tell them all the time, they have to sell themselves, and their crafts, to the world. They can not just set up a little table at a craft shop and expect people to find them. They need to step out of the box and find the customers! With that being said, let us look at the many ways you can make money from doing crafts.

Teach Classes

This is one of the best ways to get yourself out in the public's eye. Give classes on how to do your crafts and make money. Traditionally, classes are given in person. You can teach your craft from your home. You can also contact your local library and find out if they have a community room that can be rented and you can teach there. Some craft stores also allow you to teach crafts at their stores. You benefit by charging for the instructions and the craft store benefits from the purchase of supplies needed for your crafts.

Make Instructional Videos

Similar to teaching classes, you can also make instructional videos on making your crafts. You can sell and market these videos on your own, from a website, or you can post them to various video websites online and earn money from views and advertising.

Write How To Articles

I make a lot of crafts, from sewing and knitting to paper mache and wood carving. However, I make these items for my family and friends. To earn money off my crafts, I write how to articles for each project. I have found this to be an excellent way to make money off of crafting for many reasons. The main reason is that I don't have to settle down with one particular craft item to make and sell. I can jump around, working on a wood carving one week and the next week sew a Halloween costume. I like being able to try out different craft ideas and sharing the ideas with other people. Another reason why I choose to make my craft money by writing is because I have been able to build up a good amount of residual income that I can count on getting each month. I don't have to rely on holiday gift buying for the bulk of my income.

There are many websites that pay for craft articles. You will want to find a website that allows you to post more than one picture per article and that has a step by step layout you can use.

You may also want to consider a blog. With a blog, you can write about your craft, post pictures and videos, sell your crafts, and sell items from

Sell Craft Kits

I have a friend that switched from selling her crafts to selling craft kits so that other people can make her crafts. This is a fun way to get more people interested in your craft. There are also many people who want to make their own items to gift and the craft kits allow them to do this.

Sell Crafts Online and Offline

Sometimes the craft market seems overwhelmed with same craft items. For example, a few years ago, everyone seemed to be selling skinny scarves. If you are going to sell your crafts online or in person, make sure your items are original in some fashion. Use special yarn, have a color theme to your items, sell your crafts and your creativity to the public.

If you are fortunate to practice a unique craft, such as carving hiking sticks or caning, you will be met with a more interested audience. Take advantage of this curiosity and make money by testing out all the ideas above, from selling kits to instructional videos. You may be well on your way to quitting your day job if you angle your craftiness in the right way.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Rye Crackers with Caraway Seeds

Rye Crackers with Caraway Seeds 

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour 
  • 2 cups rye flour
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds 
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda 
  • 1 cup water from 
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil 

In a large bowl, mix ingredients in the order given. Lightly flour a dry, flat surface and roll out cracker dough until thin. Cut into desired shapes. Heat oven to 275 degrees F. Bake crackers on baking sheets for about 30 minutes. Remove from sheets and let cool completely.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Reusing Old Jeans for Hotpads

During my lean years, those years when my two oldest were little, over a decade ago, I made a lot of things I needed out of things I did not need. One of those things were old or outgrown jeans. In fact, I remember putting a call out to the family requesting any unwanted jeans and I got bags full.

While I used the jeans first for larger projects, such as a braided rug and a jean quilt, the left over pieces were just right for hotpads.

My first step was to cut a square from paper to use as my pattern. I then would cut out as many squares as I could from the leftover pieces. The second step was two layer the jean squares. Depending on the thickness of the jean material, I would use 3 to 5 layers of jean material. I would then pin the layers together. Using a heavy needle and cotton embroidery thread, I would first hand sew a design in the middle of the squares. I kept it simple, such as a heart or flower outline. It was just something that held the layers together. For finishing off, I would whipstitch all around the edges.

I have used these hotpads for over a decade. I won't share a photo of them because they are on longer nice looking, but they do work better than any cheap hotpad bought in the supermarket.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Baked Eggs with Cheddar Cheese

This is a super easy egg breakfast recipe anyone can learn to make.

6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp soft butter
1 tsp prepared mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Preheat oven 325 degrees F. Mix all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour the ingredients into an 8 by 8 by 2 inch pan. Do not grease the pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until the eggs set. Serve immediately.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Simple Honey Prune Muffins

Make and serve these muffins for breakfast or for snacking.

Recipe makes 9 muffins.

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup chopped prunes
1/4 cup corn oil 
1 large egg, lightly beaten 
1 tsp grated orange peel 

Preheat oven 400 degrees F. Grease 9 muffin pan cups or line with paper cups.

In a medium bowl, mix together flours, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix until the dry ingredients are moist.

Spoon mixture into prepared muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until the muffins feel firm to the touch. Serve warm.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Easy Waffle Recipe

Waffles are very easy to make and it is much cheaper to make them than to buy them. You can also make extra waffles and freeze them for later.

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 tbsp corn or vegetable oil
2 cups milk 

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Stir in oil and milk.

Gradually mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Cook the waffle according to your waffle iron.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Easy Cheddar Cheese Cracker Dip

Why waste your money on expensive store bought dips when you can make your own? This is a great first time dip recipe that anyone can make.

Make this dip two hours before serving. Recipe makes 3-1/2 cups.

2 cups dairy sour cream
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup green olives stuffed with pimento, sliced thin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried ground sage

Mix all of the ingredients together two hours before serving. Cover and chill. Serve with crackers.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Easy Blue Cheese Vegetable Dip

Blue cheese is one of my favorite cheeses to work with because it is so easy to crumble and I don't need to use a cheese grater.

Make this dip at least two hours before serving. Serve with fresh and crunchy vegetables.

3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
Dash of garlic powder
Dash of paprika

Mix ingredients together in a small bowl. Cover and chill. Serve in small dip bowl will fresh vegetables.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tuna Dip for Chips and Celery Sticks

1 can (5 oz.) chunk tuna
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 cup dairy sour cream
1 tbsp prepared horseradish

First, drain the tuna and add the tuna to a small bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Cover and chill for two hours before serving. Dip tastes good with chips, pretzel sticks, celery and carrot sticks.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dill Weed Vegetable Dip

Make this easy dill dip to serve with fresh and crunchy vegetables such as celery and carrot sticks.

Make this dip at least two hours before serving.

2/3 cup sour cream
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp minced onions
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp dried dill weed
1/2 tsp  Accent
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Dash of pepper
2 drops Tabasco sauce

Combine ingredients and chill. Serve in a small bowl that can be used for dip.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

6 Lottery Winning Tips

Who doesn't want a chance at winning the lottery? I would simply love the opportunity to get ahead and have a chance to spend a little extra on the things my kids and I want. That is why I have been doing a little bit of research on how others believe they won the lottery.

1. Choose Numbers with Meaning

Don't let the machine pick your numbers for you. Instead, pick numbers that have meaning to you. They can be ages, birthdays, or the last two digits of the years your family members were born. Choose your lucky number. If a number has a happy meaning to it, choose it.

2. Choose Random Numbers

Some winners swear by choosing their own random numbers. This can be done by holding a pen and letting it drop onto random numbers or you can go the extra mile and write each number on a slip of paper and drop them into a bowl. Draw out the number of slips (numbers) you need to fill out the lottery card and use the numbers you draw.

3. Play the Same Numbers

After you have chosen your set of numbers, play them each time you play the lottery. Also, focus on your numbers as you play them. Memorize them. They are your ticket to financial freedom.

3. Practice Law of Attraction

You've probably heard about the Law of Attraction by now. It basically states that what you think about, you become or you acquire. I read about a lottery winner who swears by this practice and, hey, practicing positive thinking is always helpful when living your day to day life. Using it to help you win the lottery is not a bad idea, either.

4. Pray or Spell

There is no harm in praying for what you want in any religion. People have also been known to cast little spells or set out a patron saint to help their cause. When it comes to good fortune, turn to your religion or spiritual beliefs for help. There are many ways to ask God, the Gods and Goddesses, and the Oneness for help. Utilize them.

5. Watch Money Attraction Videos

Visit YouTube and watch a few money attraction and lottery winning hypnosis and meditation videos. I've tested out a few before choosing which scratch off ticket to buy and I believe that they work for me.

6. Keep Playing

You can't play just once and then give up because you didn't win right away. It takes perseverance and determination to win the lottery. Many winners have played the lottery faithfully for years before they won. Go in it for the long haul and see what happens.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Stop Buying Herbal Supplements and Make Your Own Cheaply

You can make your own herbal supplements cheaply and safely at home. You don't need expensive equipment and you can be certain of the quality of the herbs you grow.

Make Your Own Herb Supplements

Buying herbal supplements is expensive. Besides price, there is also the question of the quality of the herbs, the age of the herbs (how long have they been sitting around, losing their potency), and where the herbs were grown and in what kind of soil.

As an herb lover, I have always been suspicious of any health product sold in stores. It is in my nature to question everything and, while I am sure that there are many quality herb supplement companies, I don't have the time and resources to be 100 percent certain of the condition of the herbal supplements available. The only way I can be certain of the quality of my herbal supplements is by growing my own.

Growing Your Own Herbs

Growing herbs is a fun and healthy activity. Many herbs can be grown in pots on a sunny windowsill or on a sunny patio. If you have a small patch of earth to garden, you can grow many more herbs. If none of this is available to you, consider renting a community garden plot or asking a friend or relative for a small patch of herb to garden.

Easy Herbs to Grow

Caraway Seeds (Carum carvi)

Catnip (Nepeta)

Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)

Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinale)

Elecampane Root (Inula)

Fennel Seed (Foeniculum vulgare)

Hops (Humulus lupulus)

Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Marshmallow (Athaea officials)

Nettle (Urtica)

Parsley (Petroselinum)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus)

Sage (Salvia)

St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis)

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

How to Grind the Herbs

After you have grown, picked, and dried your herbs, you will need to grind them into powder form.

Mortar and pestle. This is the old fashion way to grind herbs. It does not take electricity for you to grind your herbs this way, but it can be a time consuming process.

Magic Bullet. Many people have been successfully using the Magic Bullet to grind their herbs into powder form.

Food processor. A simple food processor will grind your herbs.

Coffee grinder. Another popular item that people are using to grind their herbs into powder form.


The capsules you need to make your own herbal supplements can be bought online. The capsules are inexpensive and can be bought in bulk from places, such as

Capsule Filler Machine

Filling capsules by hand is tedious work. Capsule filler machines are inexpensive and speeds up the process of making herb supplements.

Storing Your Supplements

After you have made your supplements, you will need to store them properly. Store made capsules in a dry containers, just as a glass jar. Keep the supplements out of the sunlight to prevent deterioration of the vitamins and minerals in the herbs. The supplements should also be stored in a cool area of the home. Cool, dark, and dry are the three necessities for keeping your herbal supplements safe.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How I Use Coconut Oil for Better Health

From the first day I started using coconut oil I saw the benefits. From better skin and hair to feeling healthy, I am now convinced coconut oil is the reason for my well being.

Reasons for Choosing Coconut Oil

It was a rash decision. I told my teenage daughter to grab her shoes and meet me in the car. We drove off to the health food store. We walked in and straight ahead I saw what I was looking for: extra virgin coconut oil.

For the past few months I have been researching for different ways to improve my overall health. The only catch is that I am generally lazy when it comes to setting up any sort of regime. I needed something I could quickly use and see almost immediate benefits. Coconut oil made sense to me because I could use it in cooking and baking - something I do every day - and I love the flavor of coconuts. Keeping it on the kitchen counter, I could also easily eat a spoonful of it for each meal I prepared: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In sight, easy use, and tastes good. These were the perfect qualities of a regime I could actually follow.

Soft Lips and Healthy Skin

One of the first things I did when I opened up the tub of coconut oil was put some on my lips. From that moment on, I haven't used anything else to soften my lips. I no longer have chapped lips and the skin on my lips is soft, smooth, and perfect for those rare occasions I put on a bit of color.

Coconut oil also softens the skin. I began using it on my face the first night by testing out just a tiny amount of coconut oil on my cheeks. I did not break out and the oil was quickly absorbed into my skin. After the initial test, each night I would put a light layer on my entire face and neck, including the skin under my eyes. I could not be more pleased. My skin began to soften within the first week and there have been no acne outbreaks from using the coconut oil. (Other people have experienced pimples when using coconut oil on their face. What you experience my very well different from my own experience.)

Rough patches of skin have also been softened by regular use of coconut oil. At night, I will sometimes rub some coconut oil onto my feet and put on a pair of clean socks. My feet have softened up and my heels are no longer cracked from dryness. My elbows have also softened and no longer pain me from dry skin.

There are many other skin uses you can try out. Extra virgin coconut oil is said to help fade age spots. Use it as often as necessary to keep your hands moisturized. As I've done with my feet, I have also used coconut oil on my hands and then placed a pair of clean cotton gloves overtop to hold in the moisture. This helped with my dry hands and cuticles. You can also use the oil as a makeup remover. The side benefit of this is that the oil seems to help with growing healthier eyelashes.

Soft Hair

If you have dry or curly hair, coconut oil is a blessing. Before going to bed, simply place a small amount of oil in your hands and, using your body heat, soften and melt the oil. Massage it into your hair. Comb through and bun or braid your hair back for the night. The next day, wash out the oil. Your hair will feel softer and healthier.

To get rid of static hair on cold winter days, put the tiniest amount of coconut oil on your hands and melt it between them. Lightly run your hands through your hair, focusing mostly on the ends.

Eating Coconut Oil for Better Health

Eating coconut oil has been an easy habit to get myself into. I believe this is mainly because I enjoy the flavor of coconuts. I take roughly 3 teaspoons of coconut oil a day, approximately 1 teaspoon before each meal. From my personal experience, this has helped my curb my snacking habits and it has given me small energy boosts with no crashing experience afterwards, as with coffee.

There are studies that show that the lauric acid in coconut oil can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. It is also said to improve thyroid health.

Amazingly, coconut oil also increases the body's absorption of vitamin D and calcium. As a woman in my 40s, calcium intake has been a major concern of mine. I have switched to drinking raw milk for the health benefits and taking natural calcium supplements. I now have the coconut oil working to my benefit, as well.

Fight Off the Flu

Coconut oil is antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiviral. Many people believe that ingesting coconut oil on a daily basis has helped them avoid or overcome the flu more easily than if they were not ingesting the oil. I haven't been taking coconut oil long enough to know whether or not it will help out this flu season, but I am anxious to find out if my new health ritual proves beneficial against the flu.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Making Hotpads on Looms

I was trying to remember all the crafts my mom and I would do together when I was small, and the first thing that came to mind were the hot pads I used to make on a square, metal loom.

When my two oldest were small, I bought them a plastic loom to make hot pads and they went to town. They must have made close to 50 hot pads in their early years and I still have a bunch of them tucked away, over a decade later.

Now that my youngest child is nearly three years old, I am dreaming, once again, of my crafting time. A quick search on Amazon turned up the old metal loom like I had when I was small. Of course, I ordered it to put away until the little one is old enough to weave.

Crafting is a family affair, and something that builds wonderful memories of family. I can't wait to share this time with my youngest.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Easy Poppy Seed Bread

Easy Poppy Seed Bread

  • 1 package yellow cake mix 
  • 1 package coconut cream instant pudding 
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten 
  • 1 cup warm water 
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil 
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Scrape batter into two, greased bread loaf pans. Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees F until  bread is firm.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

12 Herbs You Can Grow Indoors

There are plenty of herbs that you can grow indoors or move from your garden and bring indoors when the weather starts to get cold.

1. Basil - Basil can be grown indoors and sprigs can be cut, chopped, and added to spaghetti sauce. Eating a leaf of basil will also tame bad breath.

2. Chives - Chives grow really well when potted and brought indoors. Use fresh, chopped chives in scrambled eggs are as a garnish for deviled eggs.

3. Dill - Grow inside and add fresh dill to breads and soups.

4. Fennel - Fennel is commonly used to cure an upset stomach. Grow indoors in a well-drained pot.

5. Hyssop - Grow hyssop in a sunny window and use it to make a healthy tea.

6. Lavender - Lavender growing in a sunny window can make a whole room smell beautiful.

7. Parsley - Parsley is a popular garnish and freshly chopped parsley is a much needed addition to homemade chicken noodle soup.

8. Peppermint - Peppermint grown in a sunny window can be used to make tea that will soothe an upset stomach.

9. Rosemary - Potted rosemary plants are a common Christmas gift and can be grown indoors.

10. Sage - Sage is a great addition to breads, bread stuffing, and soups. Use freshly grown sage for baking, cooking, and in teas.

11. Savory - Savory can be added to meat dishes and it is used in making broths.

12. Thyme - Thyme can be added to a number of meat dishes, soups, and broths.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Drying Herbs in the Car

There are many ways to dry freshly picked herbs, but drying them in my car is my favorite method. Cars can get very hot in the summer when the sun is beating down on them. It makes a great oven for drying herbs, without the risk of burning them. When I dry herbs in the car, I don't have to worry about bugs getting into the drying herbs and any bugs that were on the herbs quickly die in the heat. Being a cat owner, cat hair can also be an issue when drying herbs. There is no cat hair in my car. Also, the drying herbs make my car smell great.

My method for drying herbs in the car is simple. I spread newspaper over the seats. I then gather my herbs and spread them out over the newspaper. I crack two of the windows just a tiny bit so that moisture can escape. Finally, I turn the herbs every 4 hours during daylight. I close the car windows and turn them once before going to bed. The next morning, I give them another turn and crack open two windows. I continue this until the herbs are completely dry. They are usually dry in 2 days, but I like to keep this up for three days just to be certain that everything is fully dried.

Years ago, I used to tie herbs in bunches and hang them to dry, but they would collect dust, cat hair,and an occasional spider web. Drying my herbs in the car has given me cleaner herbs to use in my cooking, and the herbs dry quickly without wasting electricity.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Mexican hamburgers recipe

Mexican hamburgers recipe

1 lb ground beef 
1/3 cup crushed corn chips 
2 tbsp  finely chopped green chilies 
1/4 tsp salt 

Put all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix. Shape into 4 patties and grill.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sunflower hamburgers recipe

Sunflower hamburgers recipe 

1 lb ground beef 
1/4 cup chopped sunflower seeds, unsalted 
1/4 cup finely chopped onion 
1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 tsp salt 
Dash of pepper 

Put all ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix and shape into 4 patties. Grill.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Great toppings for hotdogs

Summertime is hotdog time. Here is a list of great toppings you can put on your hotdogs.

Leftover chili
Chili sauce, shredded lettuce, and shredded cheddar cheese 
Cottage cheese and chopped onion 
Leftover sloppy Joe
Chopped bacon and shredded cheddar cheese 
Barbecue sauce and chopped green pepper 
Pineapple and ketchup 
Sauerkraut and shredded Swiss cheese 
Potato salad 
Baked beans 
Shredded lettuce and shredded Swiss cheese 
Chopped onion and ranch dressing

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Chicken salad

Use leftover cooked chicken to make this recipe.

Makes 3 cups.

3 cups cooked chicken, cubed
1/2 cup mayonnaise 
1/4 cup finely chopped celery 
2 tbsp lemon juice 
1/8 salt 

Put all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve over lettuce or as a sandwich filler.